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Tuesday, 17 August, 1999, 09:39 GMT 10:39 UK
South Korea's dog day

A growing number of Koreans are opposed to eating dog
Tuesday is a bad day to be a dog in South Korea.

August 17 is known as 'Malbok' in the Korean lunar calendar, the last of three annual 'dog days' when Koreans - mostly old men - eat lots of dog meat in the belief that it will boost virility.



The ban was imposed to deter bad press during the 1988 Olympics
Contrary to popular opinion, the sale and consumption of dog meat is illegal in South Korea.

The ban was introduced before the 1988 Seoul Olympics as a result of government fears that the country would suffer from bad publicity.

But for many, tradition is more important than sticking to the letter of the law and animal welfare groups say many dogs are destined to end up as part of a spicy dog stew.

Welfare groups say many will suffer a cruel death as pain is traditionally said to improve the flavour.

Dog soup

Statistics show that dog is the fourth most popular meat in South Korea after pork, beef and chicken.



Welfare groups say many dogs suffer a cruel death
There are said to be more than 6,000 restaurants across the country selling poshintang, or dog meat soup, getting through about 8,500 tons per year. Another 93,600 tons is used annually to produce a medical tonic called kaesoju.

With many people ignoring the ban, opposition members of the national assembly are trying to re-legalise dog meat - a move that is being strongly opposed by South Korea's small-but-growing animal rights movement.

The Korea Animal Protection Society (KAPS) says dog meat is not a traditional Korean food, rather it became part of the diet at a time when Koreans had no other choice.

'Domino effect'



The banner says "dogs are our friends" and "don't hurt dogs"
The society's President, Kum Son-ran, says the consumption of dog meat could also spark a wider breakdown in society.

"If we allow eating dog, man's best friend, it will cause a domino effect and people will have no qualms about abusing and eating anything," he says.

"Man will lose morality and will abuse other humans. Many people don't realise the spear that we throw at animals will come back to us."



Dogs are widely available in Korean marketplaces
However, lawmakers with the opposition Grand National Party say since most Koreans will continue to eat dog, new laws are essential to bring the industry under government control whilst ensuring proper hygiene and standards of animal welfare.

One member of parliament, who proposed a law to allow the eating of dog, has written an angry letter to French actress Brigitte Bardot, explaining that Koreans are not barbarians.

Ms Bardot is a renowned supporter of animal rights and has long criticised the Koreans' culinery practices. But the member of parliament argues that dogs will be treated better if the issue is brought out into the open.

He explained his logic to Ms Bardot in the letter, adding that the Koreans find it puzzling that the French eat horses and snails.

Health officials in South Korea have repeatedly issued warnings about the low hygiene standards associated with the illicit dog meat industry.

Last year, two men were arrested on suspicion of re-selling the carcasses of thousands of dogs used in medical experiments to dog meat restaurants.

But with South Korea due to act as joint hosts of the 2002 World Cup the government says it would be inappropriate to allow the bill to pass.

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See also:

11 Mar 99 | World
Dogs 'blow-torched' alive
05 Aug 98 | Asia-Pacific
Koreans arrested over dog soup
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